Where have all the YOG football stars gone?

Mr Leong Kok Hoe is right - the retention rate of talent is too low to feed our national team and the local leagues (Bold changes needed to rejuvenate local football; March 31).

In 2010, Singapore defied all odds to finish third at the Youth Olympics Games (YOG) football competition. It seemed that this team of 15-year-old players would form the "Golden Generation" of Lions to restore the country into being a force to be reckoned with.

But seven years on, not one of those players has made it to the national team. In fact, only six of them are still plying their trade in the S-League.

The captain of the YOG team and arguably its most high-profile player, Jeffrey Lightfoot, chose to concentrate on his studies, like the overwhelming majority of rising young talents. However, school commitments alone cannot be blamed for the low retention rate.

The lack of continuity was a major factor behind the break-up of the YOG squad.

Coach Kadir Yahaya quit after the tournament, supposedly over differences with the football association. He was instrumental in the YOG squad's improvement.

Our S-League clubs need to be financially stronger to attract better foreign signings and make a professional career in soccer a viable option for young locals.

Revenue from match ticket sales and merchandise can only increase significantly by bringing up the overall standard of the S-League.

Home-grown talent was previously withering on the vine because our league was swamped by foreigners, leaving rising talents marginalised. If the best Singapore players under 21 do not get a game every week, they may just give up playing full-time, leading to an ever-shrinking pool of talent for the national team to choose from.

In order for the transfer of skills to local players to happen, the quality of foreign signings must be of a significantly higher standard. Only then can our footballers learn from their foreign teammates.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2017, with the headline 'Where have all the YOG football stars gone?'. Print Edition | Subscribe